How to write a marketing plan for next year

Are you interested in learning how to write a marketing plan for the next 12 months? 77% of companies have a content marketing strategy, so If you’re dissatisfied with the number of leads and customers you reached this year, Vu can help you create or refine yours.

What we will cover

Why write a marketing plan at all?

Before I explain how to write a marketing plan, it is worth spending some time on the why. What is the value of writing a marketing plan? Well, without a plan, it will be very hard to keep everyone on the same page when marketing your products or services.

How will you set and justify your marketing budget? Which channels will you use for your campaigns and what content will you create? Who will you target? How will you know which campaigns worked, and deserve extra budget, and which flopped?

Taking a strategic approach to your marketing beats running ad-hoc campaigns in all of these areas.

How to write a marketing plan the Vu way

I’ve come across articles where marketing plans are described as a ‘high level’ tool, but while it is important to take a wide-angled view of your marketplace, you will also need to put down some hard numbers and timescales.

Since every business is unique, we recommend you book a couple of hours with a Vu Online marketing expert to customise your marketing plan to your needs (more on that later), for now, I will share the process we go through.

We have found the most effective way to create a marketing plan is to break it down into five areas: defining your marketplace, setting budgets, choosing channels and campaign targets, syncing with your customer journey and setting and reviewing targets. We also help our clients to set up a simple content calendar – so it’s not just the ‘high level’ stuff.

One of the first tasks we will work with you on is developing a few key marketing personas. This is an exercise best tackled with post-it notes and a large board, don’t forget to buy recycled paper ones from a green supplier.

Who are you selling to?

Although marketing personas are a staple of 21st century marketing, many business owners skip the valuable process of fleshing them out.

We have written a guide about marketing personas, so please read these if you want to brush up your understanding. In a nutshell, a marketing persona is a fictional representation of a core segment of your market.

They are a simple yet powerful way to focus your marketing campaigns, helping you to choose the best platform for your goals and to create content that will resonate with your audience.

The start off this task, ask yourself the simple question, “what product/service am I here to explore?” – This will keep you focussed on one thing at a time. Pop each one a post-it.

Then underneath each Product/Service, ask”who buys my products/services?” and list out their job roles, one for each post-it again, if you are struggling, literally look at your last 10 invoices, who is the point of contact for the work you do?

We are now going to flesh these out, for each job role, begin to ask yourself for some general demographic information, one element on each post-it, we are not trying to understand the deep ins and outs, nor discriminate, just trying to paint a generalised picture of someone to differentiate them from another.

Here’s an example list of some of the points of definition:

  • Age (approx bracket eg 30-40’s)
  • Gender (majority or percentage eg, 70% female)
  • Location (are they all local? Spread regional? Town or country specific?) 
  • Education (a bit about their background)
  • Income (a rough idea, are they affluent?)
  • Married (an idea into their family setup, single? Settled? Children? Will affect their decision making)

What you might find now is that some of these job roles are crossing over, for example if you had 10 job roles, you might find that there’s only really 2 or 3 different personalities in there, feel free to group these together and spend ten minutes giving each group a name*, make it fun, we’re only human. “One-man band Bertie”, “Regional manager Regina” – you get the idea.

From here you can go in different directions depending how much time you have, for each persona, consider exploring:

  • Where are they hanging out? (in person or online)
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What problem do you solve for them?

*Seriously, I’ve had clients who refer internally to customers by their persona name and the team immediately can pinpoint their pains and aspirations. Some have done a workshop and come back years later citing the name of a customer persona back to me and how much it changed their thinking when interacting with new customers. After all, if you can look after a certain type of person, there’s a good chance you can look after others with similar needs.

an example persona being created for a marketing plan

An example persona, “Hands on Will”, created in a marketing plan workshop.

Setting budgets and choosing platforms

With a marketing plan in place, you will have a better idea of what resources you will need. Setting an overall marketing budget will protect you from overspending.

Once you know your customer personas, you can attribute an average spend to them, then think about how many you would like to acquire this year. You will then be able to work out a financial target for the year, and if you take 5 or 10 percent of that, you will also have a marketing budget.

Simple and quick.

The easiest way to work all this out? In our experience a quick table…

assigning a target and a budget to your persona

Here is our persona, with a projection for the next 12 months. Do this for each persona and you will have an idea of the potential turnover for the business.

This will prompt the question of “where to spend the budget?” The answer lies back with our personas, did you get as far as understanding where they are hanging out? You should have your answer.

Connecting the dots

If the bulk of your customers engage with you on Facebook or Twitter, you might want to focus on running targeted social media ad campaigns. If you find that most people discover you via Google Search, knitting together Google Ads with powerful landing pages could be the most cost-effective marketing activity for you.

For example, Hands-on-Will is creative, he loves Etsy and Pinterest and frequently visits them for new ideas. Okay, so trialling an advertising campaign on Pinterest may catch his attention?

Perhaps he also loves to keep fit, he is city-centric, so we could assume he is a gym goer, and could trial some poster designs at gyms around London.

As you can probably see, the more detail you have about your customers the more data you have and the less assumption you make. So spend some time doing market research with your audience and you put far less guesswork into your marketing campaigns.

Remember that all of your advertising activities should lead to focused landing pages, this means the idea may be correct but the conversion point or product offering is not right. We often find that businesses who struggle to hit the ground running right away can abandon digital marketing as a waste of time.

The important thing to realise here is that if you get it right, you create an effectively a conveyor belt of lead generation which is hugely valuable, so stick with it, and if theres any help we can offer it is to understand your customer journey.

Decide on the platforms

Now that we have discovered where our audience is hanging out, it’s time to pin our ideas to the mast.

In our example, we decided we would try Pinterest ads for Hands on Will. Great, capture that action and assign a proportion of your marketing budget to it, you will need to do some research on how much to budget, which will vary depending on the platform and type. For now, most platforms need £10/day, so keep in mind the ad spend alone being at least £300/month.

But he also goes on YouTube, so we might decide to prioritise some energy to create a series of educational explainer videos. Some tattoo inspiration boards for Pinterest and a blog of how-to-guides, and hey presto, we actually have some nice repeat content for a monthly marketing newsletter.

This has now gone from being just a top-level marketing plan to becoming a content plan, and we can make that into an actionable content calendar with just a little bit more thinking (more on that in a moment), for now, let’s just stay with our platforms.

examples of platforms via personaBuild a list of the platforms and content needed

Think about the content needed

Whether its a small bit of text, a nice picture, or a long-form read like a blog article, we need to think about the content we are going to need for our plan, and work out who is going to do it.

From the above, we now have a picking list of actions, a bit of a brief for how we will communicate with our persona. Let’s explore each and think about what we need to do to make them a reality…

  • Website – Update the landing page to reflect my personas needs and aspirations
  • Pinterest ads – Setup ad platform and tracking, create a campaign, review report, tweak and go again
  • Pinterest boards – Whilst were here, setup some boards to gain some free traffic
  • Youtube videos – Research and film 12 videos to give tips and advice regarding my services, create a description, upload and tag them on YouTube
  • How to guides – Add 12 blog articles as an expanded transcript of the YouTube videos, embed the youtube video
  • Newsletter – Setup a mailing list in Mailchimp, create a template and populate it with the youtube video, how to guide and links to follow us on Pinterest.

This is a very concise piece of work to give to a team member or external agency to price, it is also set against a target and a budget for you to step back and take a top-level view of.

It also highlights all the little fragments that are often forgotten, the YouTube description and tagging will define how successful the videos are at getting seen, but they are often lost from the plan entirely.

Now that we have a plan of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and hopefully you have someone other than just you responsible for it, it’s time to pull it all together into a content calendar.

Introducing the content calendar

If you really want to know how to write a marketing plan that translates to measurable engagement, you should include a content calendar, this can be as simple as a spreadsheet with individual weeks as column headings and categories of content ( posts, videos, podcasts, etc.) as rows.

I mention this because its exactly what we have here, but with a difference. It allows you to plot your activites but also helps you align your content with bigger-picture topics that we call special days. Think of it like this, in our (certainly eclectic shop) we have various products that we sell:

  • A Christmas hamper
  • A box of chocolates
  • School uniform
  • Guy Fawkes dolls

We’re running 4 advertising campaigns this year. Valentine’s Day, August Bank Holiday, Firework Night & Christmas. Okay, simplistic, we already know which product we are going to promote, but this metaphor is the same for our content.

Lets say the same imaginary store holds environmental values close to its heart, so we are going to post a blog article about our Fairtrade practices on #FairtradeFortnight and do a sale on recycled school uniforms on #InternationalDayOfForests.

We could do these posts anytime, but by using a content planner we can plan ahead for them. By marking important local, national or even international awareness days alongside important trade events, you can ensure your campaigns are properly structured rather than rushed out at the last minute.

Joining these wider conversations and adding your voice does two very important things, it elevates the pitch to the wider conversation and gains you more exposure and it showcases your values. Instead of saying “buy my stuff”, your showing your potential customers why they should buy your stuff.

This planner can also help you divvy up work across your entire marketing team, giving you one centralised sheet, broken down into manageable chunks for every week of the year.

an example of the content planner in actionAn example of the content planner in action

So, do I need a marketing plan or a content plan?

Well, there’s the question, the beauty of this process is that often the “strategic thinking” (persona and planning) is done separately from the “doing work” (the content creation) that it leads into.

This process helps you fuse it together and create something measurable and actionable, when we run these marketing planning sessions it is uncommon to find an organisation that has a well-defined customer persona, yearly target and budget down to an organised weekly content plan, so I hope the above article has helped plug a potential gap in your process.

It will help to recognise that a large part of marketing is about telling the right story in the right place to attract the right person. If there is an expectation of marketing wizardry and abundant riches, then it is largely down to getting the above recipe right and of course, remembering that the “right one” is entirely down to your perception or business.

If you feel confident to bring team members or even customers into these sessions it can hugely enlightening, and if you feel like you would value some outside creative input then you are most welcome to have a chat with us and see if we are a good fit.

Want some hands-on guidance on how to write a marketing plan?

Writing a marketing plan is best done as a team exercise, so what could be better than joining forces with a Vu marketing maestro to get your year off to the best possible start?

We can set up a workshop for you and your team where we walk you through the process from start to finish, visit our dedicated strategic marketing plan workshops page, or feel free to call or email us for an initial chat.

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strategic marketing plan

Strategic Marketing Plan

Business owners can become frustrated with digital marketing when there is no strategy or actionable plan to follow. Our strategic marketing plan workshop addresses this and provides clarity for your small business.